O Come, All Ye Fearful

This may sound like a story of faith, but mostly it’s about mistrust and fear.  Not the kind of fear big enough to scream over, more the slow-moving variety that makes me squeeze my soul and lips tight like the clasp on a granny’s purse until I don’t recognize me anymore.

To the beginning, 16 days before Christmas.

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I pull into my driveway.  It’s raining. Night. No one is home.  No light is on.

I have a trunk load of groceries.  Four and a half minutes separate my ranking as either good mom or bad.  I lose if I’m late to pick up my daughter from ballet class across town.

A rustling on the wall that divides my home from my neighbor’s startles me as I open the trunk.

“Hey!” says a young man, jumping out of the shadows.  He hops over the wall and drops two feet from my toes.

“Hey,” he repeats as if maybe I didn’t hear him, see him, already have time to wonder what he’s doing materializing from the storm like this at 8:30 at night. He talks fast.

“I’m not looking for charity, see, I’m just trying to make a better life for myself, see, all’s I’ve got to do is sell magazines, get to 15,000 points and I’ve earned my way, see, I only need 300 more points and your neighbor, Ron, he just asked me in for cinnamon rolls and bought a magazine and all I need is 300 more points and I’ve earned my way do you want to buy some magazines?  Say, is that McDonald’s in there?   Something sure smells good for dinner.  Did you go to McDonald’s?”

He pauses for air, flashes big, clean white teeth at me.

I lean in, trying to smell cinnamon on his breath.  I search for crumbs or icing smudges on his lips.  He’s dressed in a well-knit sweater, navy blue pants, heavy boots.  He has that wide, wide smile.

I turn away.  Walk up the steps to the porch, to the shelter.  It’s still dark. He follows.

I never buy anything from doorway solicitors I prepare to tell him.  I already have six subscriptions to magazines I don’t read.  They were bought from my children as school fund-raisers.

The children.  It’s a good thing they’re not here to see their mother so foolish as to lead a man who jumped out of the night onto the porch. I pause, keys clutched in my hand, ready to use as a weapon.

“Sure, I’ll help you out,” I say.

This startles both of us.

He smiles again.  I see no cinnamon streaks.  I look into his deep brown eyes and catch a straight gaze.

“Here, let me just give you $20,” I say, glancing down at my purse.  I am not following those eyes into any sort of trust.

“Oh no ma’am,” he says, shaking his head.  “They won’t let us take money.  No cash.  You have to buy a magazine subscription.  You can pay by check.  Boy, that food smells good.”

I blink.  I’ve already leapt off my cliff of prudence, talking to this man alone on the porch in the dark and now I’m feeling guilty because I’m not giving him my dinner and I don’t want to give him a check.  There’s a lot of information on a check.  My name.  Phone number.  Address.  Signature.

My credit information was stolen once.  Some lady was charging up jewelry at JC Penney and televisions and calling herself me.  I didn’t find out until I went to buy a new house and discovered my credit report was marred with dozens of delinquent accounts for tens of thousands of dollars.  The police traced the theft to a ring of credit pirates working at a car dealership where I’d written a check as down payment.  It took two years to clear my name.

No, I can’t give this stranger a check. Tomorrow I’ll start to be a more trusting person.

“Let me see what magazines you’ve got,” I say, surprising us both again.  He replies with that wide smile, all teeth.  I wonder if it’s the good fortune of not being turned away, or the thrill of having duped me.

I open the front door and turn on the porch light.  We stand like moths, hovering in the circle of light, not in, not out.

“I am really late now,” I say, flipping through a phone book size listing of magazines and prices all written in tiny script. I say I’m in a hurry because I have to pick up my daughter and then he asks where she is and I imagine he’s gauging how long I’ll be gone so he can steal all the presents piled under the tree.

“Man, your neighbor, Ron sure is nice.  Man, those cinnamon rolls were sure good,” he says rubbing his navy blue sweater with his big hand.  Grinning.  Again, I lean closer trying to smell cinnamon.  I size him up.  Me versus him.  I’m not sure who would win.

I try to pretend he’s the Messiah and I’m the old innkeeper who would like to invite him in this time to prove that 2,000 years have brought changes, that my faith is bigger than my fear. I can’t do it.  I tell myself it’s because I don’t have time.  What I don’t have is faith in strangers.

I order Catholic Digest, partly because it’s the cheapest magazine, but mostly it’s my personal challenge to God. You’ve given me faith to trust a stranger now don’t let me down.

I get a yellow receipt.  The stranger gets my signature, address, phone number, bank account.

I lock the door, leave the porch light on and roar out the driveway, windshield wipers flapping.  I slow to wave goodbye to this stranger, to get one more good look at him.  He’s gone.  Not in my yard.  Not on the porch next door.  Not across the street.

I think about calling Ron and asking him about those cinnamon rolls. I think about calling the police. I veto any action that involves telling a soul how foolish I was.

My bank statement shows the check cashed on December 24.

I wait.

Then one ordinary day, Baby Jesus arrives in my mailbox disguised as a magazine. Tucked between bulky campaign literature and my new Crate & Barrel catalog is the January issue of Catholic Digest.  I don’t think I’ve made a mistake with this selection because it has a nativity scene on the front even though the cover says January. The lasting gift.  I see this as a private joke and chuckle.

“What’s so funny?” my daughter and son wonder, pawing through the pile of mail.

I tell them how I was just thinking that the world is mostly a beautiful place and they better remember that always.

Two days later, the February and March issues arrive together.  I suppose that too is some sort of private joke.  Make no mistake now, they seem to say, you are caught up on promises made by strangers.

I suppose that means it’s my move again.

treeWith an eye toward the light of the season,
~Catherine

p.s. This story, in a slightly different version, first appeared in Los Angeles Times Magazine, Dec. 3, 2000.

Pomegranates, Poetry, and Play

I was invited on a field trip.  My Backyard Sisters post, “Pomegranates, Poetry, and Play” shows up today over on the Minerva Rising Literary Journal blog. Minerva Rising’s mission is, “to celebrate the creativity and wisdom in every woman.” I’m honored to be included among the fine group of writers and artists represented there.DSCN3482
I was asked to guest blog because one of my poems, “Early Warning,” appeared in the Minerva Rising’s June 2013 edition titled “Rebellion.” When I submitted the poem – a dark piece dedicated to women in history who suffered years of domestic abuse until they finally murdered their husbands- I wrote:

When I think of rebellion from a Minerva Rising perspective, I think of June Jordan‘s poem, “In My Own Quietly Explosive Here.” Women silenced sometimes feel as if we are “dying underground,” yet we discover strength when “circles hold us together.” We find wings when we tell our stories and listen to one another.

My poem was a challenge to us all not to judge, nor to ignore, unsettling behavior. Today’s post is much lighter in tone than the poem, yet it also is related to a type of rebellion. It tells the story of a front porch encounter with a group of neighbor girls playing Bigger and Better. Here’s an excerpt:

Maybe it’s the poet in me, or maybe I spy the pomegranate perched on my porch next to the pumpkin and find the perfect metaphor for why bigger isn’t always better. Pumpkins and pomegranates both ripen at this time of year with their fiery oranges and red in defiance of the coming brown and deadness. But they couldn’t be more different.

You can read the entire post on the Minerva Rising Literary Journal blog here. I’d be remiss not to mention the influence of Joan Houlihan‘s The Us upon my musing.  I was in the middle of that unique and haunting poetry book when interrupted by the neighbor girls. I doubt it’s an accident that my mind went to questioning the value of bigger over better while hypnotized by what is described on the back cover as:

The Us, Joan Houlihan’s mesmerizing new book, is a sequence of poems spoken in the collective voice of nomadic hunter-gatherers. Incompatible with a stronger, more developed culture (“thems”), the us must live outside civilization in order to be free and fully alive.

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The Us is stunning.

If you’re inspired to “be free and fully alive,” through prose,  you might appreciate these recent posts of mine.

“Anything Can Happen”
“Be small. Feel big.”
“What do you bring to the table?”

May the goblins you meet tonight scare you just enough to keep the porch light on, but not enough to ruin your evening with nightmares.

~Boo!
Catherine

p.s. You can read Darrel Lorenzo Wellingtons’ fine review of “Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan,” here. Jordan, whose spirit inspired my poem “Early Warning,” was the author of  “political verse, protest poetry, folk poetry, love poetry, scenic poetry, surrealist and associative poetry, light and humorous verse, spoken word poetry and even a few sonnets.” The collection, published by Copper Canyon Press in 2007, is big:  649 pages. Rebellion indeed.
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Life Version 1.new

Composing Self: The title of a class I teach this semester. The work of a life.

I can’t tell you about the struggle between silence and witness that rumbles between my ribs this September.  Do I better serve the world with words or actions?  The gaps in my journal suggest I’m favoring the work of hands not head, behaving more like a silent tree than a writer, a physical manifestation rather than a noetic one.

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I sit alone with my mother-in-law in the hospital.  Between the wracking coughs of a deeply settled pneumonia, she tells me about a childhood friend who taught her to make Greek pastry and dance. “I used to love to dance,” she tells me. We stare out the window at impossibly glaring blue.  Will I dance enough?

An e-mail arrives inviting me to participate again in the Big Orange Book Festival. I find my journal entry written after last year’s event where I created and presented a mash-up of lines from dirtcakes, the literary and art journal I publish.

It’s 3:55 p.m. and I stand outside on the top of the cement steps leading to the library. I’m here to read to a crowd and there are two people waiting. One is my student trying to “get in my good graces,” the other is my niece being supportive. Muzak fills the piazza, a barefoot boy in a green shirt splashes in the fountain, a small red train on rubber wheels weaves in and out of the piazza with one mother and one girl sitting in the back car.  The conductor toots the horn and the small boy playing in the fountain giggles and waves and I pause and I wave because there’s nothing else to do.

The breeze, slight in the 94 degree afternoon with no shade, is enough to blow across the microphone meaning I must speak above the wind, above the water falling from the fountain, above the train tooting, the children laughing.

I shout out into the nothingness and even if I wasn’t a writer the metaphor for this moment as a physical manifestation of the void into which a small journal of arts and letters launches is apparent.

No one pays attention, except perhaps the man in the orange shirt with the white name tag. I can’t read his name from his distance at the bottom of the stairs but he nods, smiles encouragingly which of course he must do because he is working this literary festival.

I ditch my opening, the bit about this being the last day of summer, the question about viewing the space shuttle Endeavor on its last journey through the sky, the query about anyone knowing that today, this day, is the UN International Day of Peace.

Ten minutes I’ve promised. Ten minutes I’ll give.  The wind distorts my voice and I begin.

“This is the poem I fought.”

I’ve been fighting for this poem, this journal, this desire to rattle the status quo and inspire someone to join me, many someones  to join me, in meeting humanity in letters and poems and stories and action.

My student never looks at me. He types on his computer. My niece looks around the piazza, up in the sky as a low plane buzzes overhead, at the train, now on its third loop (toot-toot) through the piazza.

I stand a little taller.
I raise my voice.
I don’t give a damn.

“Now that she can read nothing can undo her.”

“green stagnant mother becomes a library. just bear down and bear down again.”

What the hell does it take for one woman with a global vision to make an impact? What do the laws of physics say about matter never being created nor destroyed. Surely these words land somewhere. I believe in these words, this dirtcakes project. I power through sections 1, 2 and 3 and 4,

“What the Night Maid draws when she can’t dream at night.”

I am the night maid. I created that line from my own dream of reaching readers. It hovers in the gloaming, just out of reach, a refrigerator light in a dark kitchen.

“shut the goddamn icebox.”

Today feels like an empty plate, an empty vision, a wasting of the kind that creates bloated bellies and I wonder why this ever felt so important to me.

I skip section 10 and most of 11 except this line which is exactly what I would make up on the spot if it wasn’t already in black and white in my hand:

“Imagine…me, an ordinary woman full of air, rocking and blowing into twilight.”

Rocking and blowing air and dreams and questions and frustration building into a sort of dignity coupled with the indignity of speaking to no one, but two.  I hope my words travel as (toot-toot) the train loops, the wind blows across the microphone, the little boy in the fountain stops splashing and waves at me his smile full of teeth white teeth. Will he remember any of this?

I read from section 12.

“I’m willing to hope now. Convince me.”
“turn around, say crazy trains, man, [say] crazy

I read and wonder how the poem knew it would end like this.

I decline the invitation to participate this year and wonder if I’m losing my ambition or composing a new self.  I wonder how you ever know if you danced enough. Will we spend  enough time marveling at the impossibly beautiful ordinary days?

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With face turned toward the blue,
~ Catherine

Endless Summer? Not quite.

July is summer’s Saturday. It’s hugged on both sides with summer months so it feels long and free and endless. While there’s still plenty of time to celebrate all the joys of the season,  there’s no denying we’re almost at its halfway point. How are you doing on your  Weekend Dish – Summer Scavenger Hunt?

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Grab a friend, get inspired and go make a memory. Remember to take a photo each time you complete one of the 101 Days of Summer activities.  Post photos on Instagram, #backyardsisters_101days

Race you to September!
1. Perfect your go-to summer barbecue meal.
2. Learn a new grilling technique. For a great veggie grilling video, click here.
3. Invite a new neighbor for dinner. Make it potluck.

Mem Day potluck1
4. Eat outside. Every night. Unless there’s thunder and lightening.
5. Eat by candlelight. Every night. Outside. Unless.
6. Sit on the grass with your dog’s head in your lap.
7. Watch fireflies.  If you catch them in a jar, be sure to let them out before you go to bed.
8. Learn 5 new objects in the night sky.  The free app SkyViewFree uses an i-phone’s camera as viewfinder.
9. Plan ahead to find a dark viewing spot for the Perseid Meteor Shower, August 11 and 12.  You’ll catch the summer’s best display of shooting stars. More info here.
10. Make your own ice cream. You don’t even need an ice cream maker. Check it out here.
sunset11. Stay up late.
12. Get up early. Photograph your days.
13. Learn the names of 5 birds in your neighborhood.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an amazing library of birdcalls. Link here.

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14. Take your morning beverage on the porch, patio, or near an open window.
15. Prop your bare feet on a ledge.
16. Plant one living thing, even in a small pot if you don’t have a yard.
17. Plant something you can eat. A few green onions. Parsley. One tomato plant.
18. Visit a farmer’s market.
19. Take home something you’ve never eaten before.
20. Eat it.

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Mangosteen

21. Learn to make the perfect margarita or mojito or favorite frozen treat.
22. Invite neighbors over to help you drink it.
23. Visit your mom and dad.
24. Look at photos from childhood family vacations; yours and theirs.
25. Record favorite memories either on video or audio.
26. Visit your children.
27. Look at photos from family vacations; yours and theirs.
28. Record favorite memories.
29. Create a family yearbook of photos.
30. Do one thing that scares you.

get wet

31. Swim in a natural body of water.
32. Cannonball into the deep end of a pool.
33. Play Marco Polo.
34.  Learn one new water skill: surfing, body surfing, paddle boarding, water ballet moves.
35. Teach your new skill.
36. Pick fresh blueberries.
37. Make a summer fruit cobbler. For the Backyard Sisters favorite cobbler recipe, click here.
38. Eat dinner on a blanket under a tree.
39. Walk after dinner through town or your neighborhood.
40. Listen.
Waimea
41. Hike a new trail.
42. Learn the names of 5 new native plants in your region.
43. Visit 3 new state parks. The rangers there will know the names of the plants.
44. Take a new friend with you.
45. Volunteer for a park clean-up day.
46. Tune your guitar, your piano, your cello, your drum, your voice.
47. Learn one solid song.
48. Lose your inhibition.
49. Make a campfire.
50. Sing under the stars.
51. Make s’mores.
52. Sleep under the stars.
53. Learn how to remove ticks from your dog. (Same concept applies to humans.) Great video here.
Art

54. Sketch, photograph, or journal what distinguishes your local ecosystem from others.
55. Learn 5 edible plants.
56. Learn 5 poisonous plants.
57. Learn to pack lightly.
58. Learn to clean up after yourself.
59. Learn to read a map.
60. Get lost.
61. Go to a car show.
62. Attend your state or county fair.

stevenson quote

63. Submit something: homemade beer, photography, literature.
64. Hold hands on the Ferris wheel.
65. If you win a giant stuffed panda, give it away to a neighborhood kid.
66. Visit the booths with prize-winning pies and jams and wines.
67. Congratulate the blue-ribbon winners. Ask one fine question about their process.
68. Hear an outdoor concert.
69. Watch an outdoor movie.
70. Wait for the Milky way.
71. Visit your local library.
72. Remember summer reading when you were a kid? Check out ten books.
73. Visit an independent bookstore. Buy one thing.
bookstore

74. Hear a live author reading.
75. Thank the author in person.
76. Perfect one aspect of your craft: Great openings. Killer closings. Trimming the fat from word count.
77. Slow dance under the Full Flower Moon on May 25.
78. Sip strawberry wine under the Full Strawberry Moon on June 23.
79.  Dance with abandon under the Full Thunder Moon on July 22.
80. Fish under the Full Sturgeon Moon on August 20.   For full moon name meanings, click here.
81. Invite neighbors over for a pancake breakfast.
82. Visit the housebound neighbor who couldn’t come.
83. Bring flowers, or stories, or one of your photos.

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84. Call your grandmother or grandfather or aunt or uncle or long lost cousin.
85. Tell them about the trees and birds and stars. Ask about the view from their window.
86. Ask about their favorite summer memory.
87. Remember to return your library books.
88. Lie on your back on the grass and watch the clouds.
89. Swing.
90. Swim again. Again. Again.

balcony art
91. Travel.
92. Learn five bits of history about one place you’ll visit.
93. Read before you go.  You can find a literary companion for more than 20 destinations from Whereabouts Press where the mission “is to convey a culture through its literature.”
94. Attend an outdoor art show.
95. Bike ride. On a beach cruiser. Along the beach if you’re lucky.
96. Learn hello, goodbye, please, thank-you and I love you in five new languages.
97. Learn how to come home.
98. Harvest and eat your one small thing standing barefoot on your own patch of ground, balcony, stone or wood.
99. Cut flowers from your yard. Take some to your neighbor.
100. Send an old fashioned hand-written note, with some herbs or fragrant leaves.
101. Set 5 small items – a shell, a rock, a poem – from your summer on your desk.

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With water in my ear and sand on my toes,
~Catherine

The Young Fathers and the Sea

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.”
~Umberto Eco

Fathers play harder than mothers. Mothers stand at the edge of the sea, snapping photos of fathers teaching the children that fun might include being roughed up by the ocean.

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I suspect mothers are secretly glad the fathers take this job. Children don’t whine when the broad-shouldered fathers take them out in water well over their head. Come on. You can do it. I’m right here.

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The children show off a little. Splash their dad. Swim away from him, then back. Cling to his neck.  I want to tell the children how this memory will imprint on their bodies. When they are decades older, swimming in the even deeper waters of life, they will recall a surge of power, an inner rush that feels like being a super hero, a whisper from one strong enough to hold you up. You can do this. Yes you can. Come on, I’m right here.

My father taught me, among many things, to body surf and ride waves with a bouncy rubber surf mat in the olden days before Boogie Boards. We roamed Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach, La Jolla.  Family outings and vacations were frequently at the beach, always in the water riding waves on rubber mats.

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How did my dad, a boy from upstate New York, learn enough wave riding skills to guide his four daughters through all the surf the Pacific could muster, including the most memorable session of all, riding the June, 1973 epic Newport Beach surf churned up by Hurricane Ava? When I ask my father a question, he responds.

In 1945  Richard J. (Dick) Beachman, Captain, USMC, took me, his ten year old second cousin, into the surf at  Pacific Beach, CA. He held class. “I’m going to show you  how to to swim out into the surf. How to use this piece of ‘gear’ to catch a wave and ride the wave onto the shore.” What he called “a piece of gear” was a mattress cover he had taken (his term was “I liberated it”) from the U.S. Naval Hospital, San Diego where he was being treated.  A Japanese sniper’s bullet went through his left hand as he waved his Marines forward during the battle for the island of Guam in July, 1944.
“First thing you do is wet the mattress cover in the surf so it’ll hold some air. Then, hold the open end toward the wind and let it fill up with air. At the same time tie the open end shut. Now you’ve got a big wet cloth balloon. Quick, wade out into the surf, look for a wave coming in. When you see one, turn your back toward the wave, put your arms and chest onto the cover and ride in onto the beach.”
Dick, my younger brother Kevin and I went ‘surfing’ several times. He always brought his ‘liberated’ mattress cover. But, in time he was discharged from the Marine Corp. Dick and his Navy nurse, Juna, fell in love, were married 62 years and raised six children. The mattress cover went with him, or them  —  or,  maybe, he returned it to the hospital.
Though Dick’ mattress cover disappeared I was hooked on riding waves onto the shore. it didn’t take long to learn how to body surf without artificial aid.  I enjoyed the sport for many years; a sport I shared with our four daughters.
There are no photos of the young father with his four daughters in the sea because the picture taking job would have fallen to the mother, a woman unable to swim but determined that her children would learn, love, and thrive in the water. She wouldn’t have taken her eyes off the lifeguard, making sure he was doing his job watching us.
The lessons learned in the ocean have lingered with all the Backyard Sisters, proving to be as valuable in life as in the Pacific.
like this

Respect the ocean. Never turn your back on here. That isn’t the same as being afraid. Respect and fear both have a place in life and the wise know which is which.

Walk behind your children. They learn to lead but know you always have their back.

If your daughter crashes and burns, let her cry on your shoulder for just a minute, then remind her of all the way she succeeds.

It’s OK not to know how to do something, but it’s not OK not to try it.

wave

The thrill of learning something from your dad will linger for a lifetime.

success

Thanks dad for making it seem like you were just playing hard with your kids in the ocean. I see now what you were really doing.

What memory will you share with your father this weekend?
With gratitude,
~Catherine

Weekend Dish-Summer!

I know what you want.
Cherries. Peach juice dripping down your chin. Bare feet. Sandy toes.

Chair

You want 101 days of summer.
The countdown officially begins today. 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

What will you do with these 2,420 hours, these 145,440 minutes, these 8,726,400 seconds of your one precious life?

There’s no way you’ll make a to-do list. You want a game.

Scavenger Hunt

Remember summer night scavenger hunts? You and your friends split into groups then set out in the neighborhood with a list? First one back with all the loot won?  Yeah. You’d like to try that again.

Take a photo of each of the 101 Days of Summer.
Post them on Instagram. Hash tag the photos with #backyardsisters_101days

Ready. Set. Go!

Epic BBQ

1. Perfect your go-to summer barbecue meal.
2. Learn a new grilling technique. For a great veggie grilling video, click here.
3. Invite a new neighbor for dinner.
4. Eat outside. Every night. Unless there’s thunder and lightening.
5. Eat by candlelight. Every night. Outside. Unless.
6. Sit on the grass with your dog’s head in your lap.
7. Watch fireflies.  If you catch them in a jar, be sure to let them out before you go to bed.
8. Learn 5 new objects in the night sky.  The free app SkyViewFree uses an i-phone’s camera as viewfinder.
9. Plan ahead to find a dark viewing spot for the Perseid Meteor Shower, August 11 and 12.  You’ll catch the summer’s best display of shooting stars. More info here.
10. Make your own ice cream. You don’t even need an ice cream maker. Check it out here.
sunset

11. Stay up late.
12. Get up early. Photograph your days.
13. Learn the names of 5 birds in your neighborhood.  The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has an amazing library of birdcalls. Link here.
14. Take your morning beverage on the porch, patio, or near an open window.
15. Prop your bare feet on a ledge.
16. Plant one living thing, even in a small pot if you don’t have a yard.
17. Plant something you can eat. A few green onions. Parsley. One tomato plant.
18. Visit a farmer’s market.
19. Take home something you’ve never eaten before.
20. Eat it.
21. Learn to make the perfect margarita or mojito or favorite frozen treat.
22. Invite neighbors over to help you drink it.

Gammy and girls

23. Visit your mom and dad.
24. Look at photos from childhood family vacations; yours and theirs.
25. Record favorite memories either on video or audio.
26. Visit your children.
27. Look at photos from family vacations; yours and theirs.
28. Record favorite memories.
29. Create a family yearbook of photos.
30. Do one thing that scares you.

get wet

31. Swim in a natural body of water.
32. Cannonball into the deep end of a pool.
33. Play Marco Polo.
34.  Learn one new water skill: surfing, body surfing, paddle boarding, water ballet moves.
35. Teach your new skill.
36. Pick fresh blueberries.
37. Make a summer fruit cobbler. For the Backyard Sisters favorite cobbler recipe, click here.
38. Eat dinner on a blanket under a tree.
39. Walk after dinner through town or your neighborhood.
40. Listen.
Waimea
41. Hike a new trail.
42. Learn the names of 5 new native plants in your region.
43. Visit 3 new state parks. The rangers there will know the names of the plants.
44. Take a new friend with you.
45. Volunteer for a park clean-up day.
46. Tune your guitar, your piano, your cello, your drum, your voice.
47. Learn one solid song.
48. Lose your inhibition.
49. Make a campfire.
50. Sing under the stars.
51. Make s’mores.
52. Sleep under the stars.
53. Learn how to remove ticks from your dog. (Same concept applies to humans.) Great video here.
Art

54. Sketch, photograph, or journal what distinguishes your local ecosystem from others.
55. Learn 5 edible plants.
56. Learn 5 poisonous plants.
57. Learn to pack lightly.
58. Learn to clean up after yourself.
59. Learn to read a map.
60. Get lost.
61. Go to a car show.
62. Attend your state or county fair.

stevenson quote

63. Submit something: homemade beer, photography, literature.
64. Hold hands on the Ferris wheel.
65. If you win a giant stuffed panda, give it away to a neighborhood kid.
66. Visit the booths with prize-winning pies and jams and wines.
67. Congratulate the blue-ribbon winners. Ask one fine question about their process.
68. Hear an outdoor concert.
69. Watch an outdoor movie.
70. Wait for the Milky way.
71. Visit your local library.
72. Remember summer reading when you were a kid? Check out ten books.
73. Visit an independent bookstore. Buy one thing.
bookstore

74. Hear a live author reading.
75. Thank the author in person.
76. Perfect one aspect of your craft: Great openings. Killer closings. Trimming the fat from word count.
77. Slow dance under the Full Flower Moon on May 25.
78. Sip strawberry wine under the Full Strawberry Moon on June 23.
79.  Dance with abandon under the Full Thunder Moon on July 22.
80. Fish under the Full Sturgeon Moon on August 20.   For full moon name meanings, click here.
81. Invite neighbors over for a pancake breakfast.
82. Visit the housebound neighbor who couldn’t come.
83. Bring flowers, or stories, or one of your photos.

all birds and sand

84. Call your grandmother or grandfather or aunt or uncle or long lost cousin.
85. Tell them about the trees and birds and stars. Ask about the view from their window.
86. Ask about their favorite summer memory.
87. Remember to return your library books.
88. Lie on your back on the grass and watch the clouds.
89. Swing.
90. Swim again. Again. Again.

balcony art
91. Travel.
92. Learn five bits of history about one place you’ll visit.
93. Read before you go.  You can find a literary companion for more than 20 destinations from Whereabouts Press where the mission “is to convey a culture through its literature.”
94. Attend an outdoor art show.
95. Bike ride. On a beach cruiser. Along the beach if you’re lucky.
96. Learn hello, goodbye, please, thank-you and I love you in five new languages.
97. Learn how to come home.
98. Harvest and eat your one small thing standing barefoot on your own patch of ground, balcony, stone or wood.
99. Cut flowers from your yard. Take some to your neighbor.
100. Send an old fashioned hand-written note, with some herbs or fragrant leaves.
101. Set 5 small items – a shell, a rock, a poem – from your summer on your desk.

DSCN2585

Last one done is a rotten egg.
~Catherine

You get what you need

Of course you can’t always get what you want. But one Wednesday night in the middle of a perfectly ordinary week you might get this:

The Rolling Stones: Forceful

Photo credit: Genara Molina, Los Angeles Times

If Mick and his pals aren’t too old to keep rocking, then I’m not too old for my first Rolling Stones concert. It’s not like I didn’t like live music the first time I wore a suede headband with feathers and beads. I sat so close to Elton John at the Inglewood Forum in 1974 that he took my hand and mouthed thank you for the hand scrawled “Elton Babe I love you!” poster I passed over the rail to him. I stayed on my feet all night long for The Who, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Neil Diamond, Joe Walsh, and the Beach Boys enough times to be considered a groupie.  I’ve even seen Kanye West in concert. But The Rolling Stones? Not so much.

Why now? Falling for those skinny boys from Bloody Old took a long slow burn. Maybe it started at a frat party or a wedding when the fastest way to get everyone onto the dance floor was to blast “I (Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Boys shouted the words feeling misunderstood and restless as under-loved mongrels while we girls echoed the lyrics a hey, hey, hey, tipping our shoulders just enough to promise that maybe this would be the night that the “girl reaction” would be satisfying indeed.

When things ended badly “Get Off of My Cloud” gave us the perfect chorus to hitch up our thumbs and sing out at the top of our lungs of a serious need to be alone. If the Stones wanted a little space, “’cause two’s a crowd,” we did too.

Decades pass like dandelion dander and we find ourselves once again in the age of frequent weddings – this time our friends’ children. Any event with music and a dance floor  – cheesy New Year’s Eve parties, milestone birthday bashes, charity parties and backyard barbecues – is guaranteed to have a band covering epic Stones tunes or a DJ spinning them.  “Brown Sugar,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” and “Emotional Rescue” still pack the floor with lip-synching, lyric shouting dancers of our age, yes, but also children and grandchildren who know this music as well as their own. These songs are in our bones the way the ocean is.

I finally had to see The Rolling Stones with my own eyes, had to be in The Honda Center, Section 202, joining the roaring crowd of bleached blondes wearing ripped black and white striped pants and red sparkly circus shoes, of long white-haired ponytailed men in tye-dyed t-shirts, of a pink twirly skirted little girl holding her grandmother’s hand, and strangers on a first date, a dad taking his big brown-eyed daughter to her first concert – He’s the best dad ever! We all wanted to see the original before a man who’s “got the moves like Jagger” is all that’s left.

lights and mouth

Watching Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and the entire cast of characters that create The Rolling Stones “50 and Counting Tour” feels like standing on shore watching winter waves ceaselessly crash toward you. It’s an unstoppable force of nature that miraculously transcends time. I don’t feel so bad now that my rarely modernized dance moves pinpoint, like some sort of carbon dating science, that my teenage coming-of-age happened in the early 1970s. Mick still dances the same too.  Footage of Rolling Stones concerts is prevalent enough for the gyrating, wiry, clapping, finger waving, prancing, Jagger to be unsurprising. Yet when you are there miles further away than a TV camera close-up and you can still feel the power of the man then you wonder why you stayed away so long.

As the band tore into its signature concert-closing song, I peeked over at J as he pumped his right fist to the roof of the arena shouting along.  “I can’t get no-oh satisfaction.” Our eyes caught. I tipped my shoulder back just a bit and smiled before offering up a little hey, hey, hey to the rafters.

With fuzzy ears,
~Catherine

p.s. Genara Molino, photographer for Los Angeles Times captured far better photos than I could get from my seat in Section 202; view his slideshow here. But, from his fancy spot near the stage, he missed one thing.

A cool thing about arriving early was the chance to watch the spotlight team ascend from the back of the floor seats, right in front of sections 201 and 202. These guys spend the concert suspended by cable providing spots for the musicians.

light boys start

Object will move before show.

light boys up high

Indeed. On their way to the ceiling.